Story by Matt Marx, CFAES Advancement | Photos by Mitch Moser and Sherrie Whaley
With donations totaling $11 million in the last two years, Pat Brundige is the biggest individual benefactor in the history of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University (CFAES).
When asked about her exceptional gifts to Ohio State, Brundige offers a modest, matter-of-fact perspective.
“I have always been a sharing, giving person. I happened to be at the right place at the right time,” Brundige said. “I might as well do some good with the money and pay forward.”
Her generosity is rooted in the strong feelings she has for the Franklin County office of Ohio State University Extension and Franklin County 4-H, entities that have been intertwined with her family since her childhood in then-rural Prairie Township west of Columbus.
4-H Is Family
Raised as a “4-Her” but too young to participate, Brundige has early memories of having to await the end of meetings that took place in her own home. Her parents, Kathryn and Fredrick Kunz, were advisors and all of her siblings were very involved in 4-H. And she wanted to be as well. She remembers waiting until after meetings, when her parents would let her “perform” for the children on a player piano.
“My mom was advisor of the girls and my father was the advisor of the boys,” she said. “We had a player piano — it was so heavy we had to slide it across the floor on bacon rinds. As soon as the meetings were over, everybody got around the piano. I pumped my legs off.”
Boys and girls had separate 4-H clubs at the time in Franklin County, she said. While Brundige’s father advised the boys on raising pigs and cattle, Kathryn Kunz taught the girls canning, sewing and other home economics-related programming.
Finally, Brundige was old enough to be an official 4-H member, and around the same time a girlfriend’s mother formed a girl’s livestock club. She participated in the Franklin County Fair, held at the fairgrounds in Hilliard.
Brundige raised a market lamb one year. She would bring a glass jug to school every day. After lunch, she would pour her classmates’ leftover milk into the jug and leave it in the school refrigerator until the end of the day. Then she would carry the jug home after school and bottle-feed her lamb.
One day, she came home and the lamb was gone. Her father handed her a check for $18.
“I cried and cried. He would have gone back and gotten it if he could.”
“I never knew what a vacation was because my dad was always busy,”Pat Brundige
A Life of Involvement
Both Fredrick and Kathryn Kunz always stayed involved with the youth organization. Fredrick started a 4-H tractor club to teach boys how to repair farm equipment. He was a member of the Kiwanis Club, and also was on the Prairie Township School Board for nearly a dozen years in the district that eventually became South-Western City Schools.
At one time, Fredrick Kunz farmed 1,000 acres.
“We never went on vacation. I never knew what a vacation was because my dad was always busy,” Brundige said. “Maybe we would have a picnic lunch at the farm.”
Her mother, Kathryn Kunz, was president of the local flower club and the PTA. She raised four children and worked in the fields when Fredrick called.
All the while, Brundige found other interests through 4-H. The principal at Norton Elementary started a photography club. Brundige set up her cellar as a darkroom. “It was something different to do.”
For Brundige, her sisters Barbara (deceased) and Kim, and her brother Robert, 4-H was a way to connect with young people from other schools.
“It was fun. It was something social to do,” she said. “I didn’t go to a movie theater until I was probably 16.”
A Male-Dominated Business World
Brundige never forgot her 4-H and Ohio State University Extension background as she studied home economics education at Ohio State and later as she entered the food industry workforce in the 1960s. OSU Extension is CFAES’s outreach arm.
She recalls that she also found it advantageous to refer to herself as Pat, instead of Patricia, in the male-dominated business world at that time.
Later, she married Tom Brundige, whom she met through the food industry. He owned Total Ultimate Foods Inc., a provider of premium dry mixes to many major food service chains. Total Ultimate Foods was a leading manufacturer of powdered salad dressings, gravy and sauces that were shipped nationwide.
After being diagnosed with emphysema and other health problems, Tom underwent a lung transplant at the Cleveland Clinic in May 1993. Unfortunately, the donor had cytomegalovirus, which had not been detected before the transplant.
With no immunity to the virus, Tom died in July 1994. Brundige ended up running Total Ultimate Foods herself for eight years before selling the company in 2007.
Her philanthropy toward CFAES began to intensify during this time. Their company had relied on the college for research, she said, and this was a way of showing their appreciation.
Paying It Forward
The first endowed fund Brundige created was for a scholarship in Tom’s name in the Department of Food Science and Technology. Initially, gift recipients interned at the company, which meant hands-on experience that could lead to a job opportunity after graduation, she said.
Brundige also made a donation in Tom’s name for the foyer and student lounge of the Parker Food Science and Technology Building.
She contributed to the building fund for the Nationwide and Ohio Farm Bureau 4-H Center and later made a gift that allowed for picnic tables outside the building in the name of her late sister Barbara.
When Bobby Moser retired after 20 years as CFAES dean, Brundige made a $1 million gift in honor of his lifetime commitment to OSU Extension, 4-H and the land-grant mission of outreach. Her endowment supports OSU Extension faculty and staff research in youth development.
She also made a gift to the 500-acre 4-H Camp Ohio that helped fund completion of Leadership Hall. The Licking County camp, located just east of Utica, provides a camping home for 13 counties and one statewide 4-H camping program that serves more than 4,800 4-H members yearly.
Making sure future generations can have similar experiences to her own is a major motivator for Brundige. Her latest gift resulted in a July 2018 groundbreaking for construction of the Kunz-Brundige Franklin County Extension Building and the creation of three endowed funds. Two of the endowed funds finance Franklin County 4-H educator positions, and the third is an endowed county 4-H support fund.
The 10,500-square-foot building will be located at the Waterman Agricultural and Natural Resources Laboratory near West Lane Avenue and Kenny Road on the Columbus campus of CFAES.
Work began in June, only three years from Brundige’s original “I would love to do a building” conversation with Ohio State Executive Vice President and Provost Bruce A. McPheron, who was envisioning a new future for Waterman.
Hopes for the Kunz-Brundige Facility
When completed in 2019, the facility will provide cutting-edge research and community engagement through Extension and — of primary importance to donor Brundige — 4-H, all from a more centralized location with close proximity to the Columbus campus.
“I hope young people get a lot of good out of this,” Brundige said of the experiences that will be available to Franklin County youth through the learning gardens, cooking labs and other programming planned for the new building.
“We envision the Kunz-Brundige Franklin County Extension Office as a hub for teaching, research and community engagement around food, health, agricultural production and sustainability,” said Cathann A. Kress, vice president for agricultural administration and dean, CFAES. “Thanks to the generosity of Pat Brundige, a longtime volunteer and advocate for OSU Extension, this facility will increase our engagement with the Franklin County community through educational programs and events for youth and adults.”
Brundige doesn’t like to talk about herself. She would prefer to keep the attention focused on 4-H and OSU Extension. She still enjoys volunteering with 4-H, helping her niece Amy, who serves as an advisor to the 4-H club that her great-niece Brooke Fleshman belongs.
Otherwise, she stays busy working in her yard. “When I see something broken, I will try and fix it myself before I get someone else to do it.”
Brundige goes to the gym three times a week and enjoys sewing and machine embroidering. She attends most Buckeye home football games and has a number of self-embroidered scarlet-and-gray quilts, aprons and bags. She gave one to Ohio State President Michael V. Drake.
Travel is also something that she greatly enjoys, having visited all seven continents. But when out and about, she still shops gas prices. “I’m not a wasteful person,” she said. “When you’re born and raised in the country, you don’t waste.”